The members of this generation of college freshman were only 5 or 6 years old on that day 12 years ago that we remember today. Not quite old enough to have strong memories of planes crashing into buildings or the wave of fear and pain that swept the world in the aftermath. This generation has grown up in a state of perpetual war, coming to think of it as the normal way of the world. So, how we choose to remember and teach the next generation about what happened on September 11th will shape how they understand the past and create their own future.
So, what happened on that day 12 years ago? We all know the basics: the planes, the buildings, the first responders and air traffic controllers. We know about the fear, the devastation, the lives lost and the vigils. Do we remember the whole world watching in shock? Do we remember the candles lit in Tehran, or the fact that the Taliban renounced the attack? Do we remember the reasons that Osama bin Laden gave as his justification for the attacks? The abuse of Palestinians and the US sanctions in Iraq that had killed 500,000 children? If we don’t remember these things we are not remembering the fullness of the context of 9/11. When we choose to see it as a senseless attack, and not as a response to actions our government had taken in the Middle East, we fail to understand the full context of the events of that day. Of course, I am not justifying the terrible actions taken by al-Qaeda or bin Laden, but only hoping to help us learn from that day.
If we can look at history not only through our lenses as Americans, but through our lens of humanity, we can see how war has begat war, violence and colonization has begat terror and fear. Only then can we learn from that day, learn from the past 12 years of war, learn from those lives lost. We remember that day and the context that created it and we learn. We learn how to be circumspect about the action we take overseas. We learn that our actions have consequences. We learn that in the future, we want to treat the world around us like we want to be treated. We learn that an American life is of no more value than the life of an Afghan. We learn that death is painful. We learn that if we act out of revenge, our enemies will act out of revenge and the cycle will not be broken. We learn that our humanity is the common denominator.
We remember so that we don’t have to copy the mistakes of our mothers and fathers. We remember so that those lives would not have been lost in vain. We remember so that we can create the kind of world where terror can not reign and hate cannot rule. We remember so that we might change.
I was looking through my old Facebook notes today and came across one from May of 2010, in which I paraphrased a conversation that Gil and I had had that night. I thought it was worthy of a repost here on the blog since I haven’t blogged in forever. It got me thinking about the bigger picture of life since I’ll be graduating in just a couple short weeks….I’d like for my life to look like this.
G: I want to do something big, like take over the world, but not in a violent way. Like how flowers take over a meadow.
C: Ooo…I like that. Like flowers take over a meadow. Because flowers don’t choke out all the weeds…
G: No, they just make everything more beautiful.
That’s the kingdom, no?
Today is International Women’s Day….not quite as popular among Evangelical Christians as National Pancake Day, but just as important I would say. In honor of IWD, I’d like to share a few of my dreams for the women of the world, in MLKjr style.
I have a dream that one day women will not be judged by their gender, but by their humanity and identity as members of the human race.
I have a dream that one day women will not be subjected to the horrors of sex as violence, but that their bodies and spirits would be honored and cherished by their communities and that they would not have to fear as they go to work, study, and walk down the street.
I have a dream that one day women will have economic justice by earning the same pay for the same work as their male counterparts.
I have a dream that one day women will feel confident and comfortable in their bodies and not subjected to idealized standards of “beauty.”
I have a dream that one day women will be welcomed as equal partners in religious communities, with an understanding that we are all children of God and made to reflect the image of God in the world.
I have a dream that one day little girls will be empowered with the knowledge that they can do anything and be anything that they want – from a rock star to the president to a CEO to a pastor.
As I think about the women around the world today who are subjected to sexual violence by spouses, traffickers, warmongers, about the women who commit suicide because they are told that they are not good enough, about the women who will never know sexual pleasure because they’ve been subjected to Female Genital Mutilation, about the women who die in childbirth because they have no access to medical care, about the women who are told that while Jesus loves them he can’t use their gifts in the church – as I think about all of these women, I want to gather them like a mother hen gathers her chicks, protecting, comforting, and nurturing. I think of Jesus who embraced that feminine description and said he wanted to do the same. I think ultimately, I dream of a day when our male counterparts would do the same – cherish, nurture, care for the women and girls in their communities. I dream of a day when women would do that for one another. I dream of a day when the brokenness of women can be healed by the men and women who come around them to bind up their broken hearts, set them free from their captivity, and walk them into the light of jubilee.
What are your dreams for women this International Women’s Day?
I’ll just come right out and say that 2012 has not been my favorite year. It’s been filled with the deaths of friends. Disease in my family. The Waldo Canyon Fire which devastated my city. Crises around the world which broke my heart.
I’m ready for a fresh start. For a 2013 which will see me finally graduate college (commencement will be on my 28th birthday….looking forward to that birthday present). 2013 will be the year of my 10 year high school reunion (this could be highly depressing or fantastically celebratory – I’m pushing for the latter). And then….who knows?
I realize that New Year’s celebrations are pretty contrived…I mean, it’s essentially just a day like any other. People will be born and will die. There’s nothing particularly amazing about the passing of another day or another year. But I think that we all need moments where we are intentional about reflection. Where we take time to think, pray and look back at another year gone by. Where we process the highs and lows. Where we remember the ways in which we have failed, taking time to grieve those failures, receive forgiveness, and turn our hearts towards redemption. And then we remember the successes, taking joy in the little bits of life and love and beauty that we’ve been a part of. We understand that there’s nothing magical in the ticking of the clock, the turning of a calendar, the sipping of champagne, and yet, we take the opportunity to make it magical, by choosing to make the most of a moment that can help us gain perspective on this crazy, extraordinary, spectacular thing called LIFE.
Even though 2012 has been hellish, I choose to take joy in the small moments that make all of the pain worth it. The birth of my nephew James. Celebrating the marriage of great friends. Trips to DC and New York to spend time with world changers. Sweet, everyday moments with my best friend. Friends that are faithful and loving in the hardest of times.
So, bring it on 2013. Bring on more life, more beauty, more celebration. Because, in spite of the fact that you will bring heartache as well, the light always conquers darkness. Hope destroys fear. Life defeats death.
And that, for damn sure, is something worth celebrating.
I leave you with Over the Rhine’s “We’re Gonna Pull Through,” which is just about the most perfect song for the end of this year.
A week ago we wept. We wept for the loss of life. For the loss of innocence. Our pain was raw and real and our hearts felt exposed and vulnerable.
Now we’re mad. We want answers. We want solutions. Unfortunately, this is one of the most difficult, complicated and charged issues in our society. Catch phrases and statistics are thrown around with little care of context or clarification. In response to the cries of “it’s too soon” at the end of last week, I started an event on Facebook entitled, “National Day of Discussion: The Gun Issue in America,” with the hopes of creating a groundswell of productive conversation today. What actually happened was a week-long diatribe of both sides of the issue throwing virtual bombs at one another and those looking for compromise and solutions stuck in the crossfire. Some of it has been interesting. But most of it has been so emotionally draining that I had to take a day long break from moderating the mess.
What has been the most shocking/fascinating to me is the response from my Christian friends on the subject. So, this post is my challenge to my brothers and sisters in the faith.
This is the season during which we celebrate the coming of our Saviour into our broken, messed up world. We celebrate the coming of Emmanuel – God coming to dwell with us, to understand our pain and suffering, to identify with the human condition. Jesus understands genocide. He understands the killing of innocents, as he grew up hearing the stories of how he and his family fled a royal order to destroy the lives of every male child under the age of two in Bethlehem. He grew up knowing the pain of a generation of his classmates gone.
He then matured into a rabbi, a teacher of the Scriptures, one who called people to the ways of God. And what were his challenges based on? Loving your neighbor, and your enemy. Where love is understood as a way of sacrifice. Where my enemy’s life is just as valuable as my own. He taught that we were not to fear the one who can kill the body.
My main problem with the response of Christians when talking about gun control or the need for more guns in the public sphere, is that they so often bring up defense of one’s self and one’s family as justification for taking the life of another. Where does that right come from?? That does not seem to be the way of Jesus, who gave up his life for us while we were yet sinners. Who says that the meek or gentle shall be blessed. And that the peacemakers will be called the sons of God. This is the Jesus who rebuked Peter for cutting off the ear of a soldier (in defense of Jesus’ life!) and then proceeded to heal his enemy.
This is the Jesus who did not promise us easy lives. He guaranteed that we would have trouble in this world. He didn’t say to counter it with violence and self-defense. But he said that in him we might have peace, because of knowing that he had overcome the world. He said that loving our enemies was actually evidence of being made perfect like God.
His followers went on to write things like, “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires;but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:5-6). And, “don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:4). The system of the world is death, violence and retribution. As followers of Christ, we are called to another way. A way of love, sacrifice, forgiveness. Knowing that there will be troubles, but that our response to those troubles should not be a continuation of violence, but an extension of the forgiveness that we have received.
This is what faith is: the confidence of what we hope for, even though we can’t quite yet see it. It’s an understanding that, even if it takes longer, or looks like it’s not working, that the ways of Jesus are better than the ways of the world. We talk so much about trusting in God and having the incomprehensible peace of Christ. But then we arm our ushers in our churches, and talk about defending our property to the death. How is that faith in the goodness of the cross? The goodness of sacrifice? That mercy is better than religion? As an American, I defend and understand your desire to carry a weapon in self-protection. But as a Christian, I must call you to the higher way. The way in which we have an understanding that this life is not all there is. That there is something more. That defending this life to the death is a denial of the resurrection.
We don’t have any rights. We gave them up when we chose to follow the way of Jesus. My security is not found in a government. It’s not found in a piece of machinery. It’s in knowing that it is in losing myself that I am found. That dying is actually living. That upside down is actually right side up. It’s in the foolishness of the Gospel. That what looks like utter ridiculousness to the world actually makes perfect sense in the Kingdom.
It’s in this that we find hope. That we see a plan for redemption. The plan of God becoming man and dwelling among us. It is in the truth of God as a baby in a manger – that which is weak and powerless and in need of another human being to live – that is where we find hope.
Israel. Palestine. These names of places evoke deep emotions in many people and for many different reasons. Anger. Hate. Sorrow. Despair. For me, I feel passion. This little part of the world and its peoples have captured my heart and my mind and I cannot separate myself from them. My future is deeply entangled with this place and these people and I have to share this passion with the world.
I’ve been wanting/needing/hesitating to write this blog for a long time. Those that know me know that I am very passionate about this subject and am vocal about it in person. But I have been avoiding going into the depths of my ideas about Israel/Palestine online for a number of reasons. I think firstly, I’ve just been too darn scared about what others are going to think/say/do about my thoughts. Other times that I’ve processed these ideas online I’ve been called anti-Semitic, unChristian, and a whole bunch of other not nice things. Baring my soul and thoughts in a public forum where personal, face-to-face conversation isn’t possible is something troubling to me. That could be a whole other post in itself about the anonymity of the internet and how it allows people to do/say things that they would never say in person. The second reason I haven’t written about this subject yet is because I have felt undereducated about it. After 2 trips to the region and 3 years in school studying the history of the conflict, I know that there is so much more for me to learn still, but I feel that I have come to a place where I can speak authoritatively and honestly about what I do know. Another reason I haven’t approached this is because I’m lazy.
But alas, here we are and I’ve committed to writing this post. This will probably be a short introduction to the subject of the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict from my viewpoint, followed by more posts addressing the questions that come up and clarifying missing points, etc. I really want this to be an interactive process of education and mutual learning for everyone who comes across this blog. I would like to ask that if you were directed here from my facebook page and would like to engage in this conversation, please do so here on the blog instead of on facebook, so that we can contain the conversation in one space.
To get us started, here’s a very good, quick video on the history of the conflict produced by Jewish Voice for Peace:
I understand that the information provided in this video might be shocking, new, or provocative for some. That’s what it was for me when I first encountered this situation a number of years ago. A good friend of mine works with Palestinians and was influential in my interest in the conflict. Up till that point, I wasn’t really quite sure who the Palestinians were, but I knew that Israel was God’s chosen people and that my support for them was closely tied to my love for God. In the past few years as I have been pursuing the truth about this conflict, I have been struck by the reality of God’s love for both peoples, Israelis and Palestinians, and the multiple religious groups that reside in the region: Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze, atheists, and even the fundamentalists on all sides!! This love of God was, I believe, perfectly represented in the person of Jesus, who called me to a life of love, forgiveness, grace, and acceptance. These characteristics form the lens of how I view this conflict. Where there is hate, I must sow love. Where there is bitterness, I am to sow forgiveness. Where there is exclusion, I am to sow acceptance. How are these things are fleshed out in this highly contested conflict? I’m sure we’ll get into all of that at some later point. But for now, know that this is my heart, and these are the values that have shaped my perspective on this conflict.
What are some questions you have about this conflict? What kinds of issues (theological/political/etc) would you like to see me address in later blogs?
Over the past couple of weeks of the debate debacles, it has become a bit obvious that the anonymity of facebook and twitter has allowed some people to forget basic manners, like speaking to one another kindly. In this season of divisive political talk and fractious relationships around the world, this video gave me some hope that there is a growing community out there of like-minded people who are tired of the talk of war and violence, who are hopeful for a world that is defined by connectedness and interdependence. Take a couple of minutes to watch this great piece (which does have spelling errors in Arabic that I picked out….)
I love that we are being reminded of our shared humanity through something as impersonal as internet technology. The fact that we can tweet with Egyptians in Tahrir Square who are still pursuing freedom and justice for their land is incredible. Or the fact that Iranians and Israelis are communicating through facebook, saying that they don’t want war…dang…that’s revolutionary.
As we continue to explore what this new technological world looks like, let’s decide that we will not let it turn us into anonymous youtube commenting pariahs, but that we will use it to remind us of the beautiful world that we live in, and let it connect us to our fellow human beings around the world, with whom we share so much.
What are some of the online tools/sites that remind you of the beauty of humanity?